Word of the Month

December 2016: Sharing with others

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Before the people of Israel entered into the Promised Land, God gave them a special instruction as to how they were to express their gratitude: they were to share. Out of thankfulness toward Him they were to give the poor and the stranger something of theirs. God gave them the commandment: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest, and you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.”

This notion of sharing can also be found in the gospel. The Apostles picked up on it and spread it further. Because we have ourselves received gifts from God, we share with the poor and the stranger.

Sharing is a firm component of Christian faith and it fits very well into our time. With it we Christians offer a counterweight to the ever-present motto of maximizing profit: in all things one must extract as much as humanly possible—as much money, as much time, as much advantage, as much utility, as much esteem, and as much prestige as possible. Everyone wants the maximum for himself. That applies to the individual, it applies to society, to the economy, to the country, and so on. And in the process, one often forgets one’s neighbour, the poor, and the stranger.

We are aware that everything we have comes from God. And God expects us not only to give Him His portion, but rather also that we have something to spare for our neighbour, for those who are in need. Because we have received so much from Him, the dear God tells us, “I want you to also share that which I give you with others. Share your time, share your strength, share your money, share your gifts. Take a moment to care for the poor, your neighbour, those who are in need.”

That is the Christian faith put into practice.

Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle

— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

November 2016: A troubled relationship

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When the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon, they had no more opportunity to worship in the temple and bring their offerings there. Divine service, as they knew it, was no longer possible for them because they had been cut off from the temple. Although their relationship with God had not been broken, it was troubled.

Many Christians also have a troubled relationship with God. They may well be baptized, and therefore members of the body of Christ, but they have internally distanced themselves from God. Church and divine service no longer hold any meaning for them.

There are likewise more than a few New Apostolic Christians who fail to appreciate their election. They may indeed have received the sacraments, but the divine service means nothing to them. While they may still have a relationship with God—after all, nothing has changed with regard to their childhood in God—this relationship has been troubled. Without the divine service, without partaking regularly in Holy Communion, they have not been able to maintain their close connection with the Lord. Fellowship with Christ suffers and becomes troubled if it is no longer cultivated by partaking in Holy Communion. When souls pass into the beyond in this condition, their relationship with the Lord is also troubled there. They are like the lost sheep of which Jesus spoke in His parable.

Through our intercessions, let us pave the way for them so that they may find their way back into close fellowship with the One who has loved them with an everlasting love.

Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle

— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

September 2016: Use the weapons of God

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The story of Gideon is likely familiar to all of us: Gideon went into battle against the Midianites, the enemies of Israel, with a great army. His army was originally comprised of 32,000 soldiers. But God spoke to him and said, “The people who are with you are too many.” And He instructed Gideon to reduce the size of his army—until at the end there were only 300 men left. And beyond that, the men of this little force were to do without conventional weapons and merely equip themselves with some trumpets and torches.

This went against all rational thinking. How was anyone supposed to fight against a gigantic army of enemies with nothing but torches and trumpets? But Gideon feared God and thought, “If God calls upon us to fight with these weapons, we will also gain the victory with them.” From a human perspective this would have sounded like complete nonsense, but because Gideon was God-fearing, and because he trusted God, he went into battle with nothing more than these pathetic weapons—and conquered the enemy: God granted Gideon the victory!

God wants us to fight our battles with His weapons, not with earthly weapons. Human beings always want to fight with power and violence—and those who are strong always plan on emerging from the battle as victors. But God tells us, “Put those weapons aside. Make use of the weapon of prayer, the weapon of obedience to the commandments, the weapon of willingness to forgive, the weapon of patience, and the weapon of the love of God.

Let us employ the weapons of God when we are attacked. This may seem senseless at first, but it works: let us try it sometime!

* Jean-Luc Schneider

— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

August 2016: What does God want?

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In the divine services we often hear about the will of God: we are to align ourselves with the will of God. We are to subject ourselves to the will of God. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Your will be done!”

But do we actually know what God wants?

Naturally, Holy Scripture gives us some insight into the will of God, namely that God wants all human beings to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God wants to grant eternal life to those who see the Son and believe in Him. God does not wish the sinner to die, but rather to repent.

But how do I know what God wants when it comes to my own decisions? When I have a plan, when I have an idea, when I start a project? Do my intentions and actions correspond to the will of God? Often the answer is clear. But at times it really is not. Some say, “Before I begin, I will bring a special offering and pray for the blessing of God.” Others say, “I will simply get started, and if God has something else in mind, He can always stop me.” Still others ask for a sign.

This is all well and good, but it is still too short-sighted.

God expects us, His children, to occupy ourselves with His will. He wants us to pray and think about it, and take the time to discover, “What does the dear God want from me? Why am I child of God? What does God have in mind for me? Do my decisions fit into the scope prescribed by the gospel?

That is not so easy, but just try it sometime: pray sincerely and take the time to reflect. My experience has been that, nine times out of ten, you will indeed recognize the will of God.

* Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle

— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

July 2016: Sticking to it is everything

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In the letters of the New Testament we find many references as to how we can gain victory with Christ. For one thing, we read how Apostle Paul takes stock of his life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (cf. 2 Timothy 4: 7-8). Therefore, when it comes to faith, gaining the victory does not mean being better than everyone else, but rather enduring to the end and reaching the goal.

The letters to the Corinthians (9: 25-26), to the Hebrews (12:1), and to the Philippians (3: 13-14) likewise refer to the image of an athlete or a race. These passages provide insight to us in our endurance training. Accordingly, those who wish to endure until they reach the goal must

  • know the goal: our desire is to enter into eternal glory. To this end we must come to resemble Christ more and more all the time. Do we occupy ourselves enough with this?
  • keep their eyes focused on the goal: let us not allow ourselves to be deterred from pursuing our course by the cheers or boos on the side-lines.
  • divide the distance into manageable segments: we do not need to be discouraged when we find we are still such a long way from acquiring the nature of Jesus. We can always resolve to focus on a single characteristic and live in accordance with it very conscientiously for a while.
  • allocate their strength properly: those who find their life of faith too taxing might try treading more lightly when it comes to natural things and concentrating on the spiritual instead.
  • get rid of ballast: guilt and irreconcilability make it difficult for us to make progress. Let us always seek forgiveness and in turn also grant forgiveness!
  • keep to their diet: what sort of nourishment helps us in our course of faith? Let us only supply our souls with that which strengthens us enduringly. Above all, this includes the word of God and Holy Communion.

“Being there is everything”—so runs a familiar Olympic slogan. When it comes to our life of faith, however, “sticking to it is everything” is the thought that counts. Let us be inspired by the call to action recorded in 1 Timothy 6: 12: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called.”

* Jean-Luc Schneider

— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

June 2016: Blessing—enough for each and every day

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Again and again our minds drift back to the question of how the blessing of God manifests itself—especially when we feel we have not received enough and think to ourselves, “Well, the dear God could actually bless me a little more. After all, I do so much for Him…!” Some wish for their health conditions to improve, others could really do with a little more money in their bank accounts, and still others hope to find a decent job or wish their sons or daughters could find an internship or apprenticeship of some kind.

These ideas and wishes associated with blessing are as diverse as life itself. And all too often we forget that blessing already shows itself in a completely different way, namely in that we have enough for each and every day. Let us recall the account of the widow of Zarephath: after the promise of the prophet, she had as much flour in her barrel and oil in her jar as she needed to provide for herself and her child—until the time of the famine had passed. God did not fill her house from floor to ceiling with flour and oil, but rather gave her what she needed for herself and her child each and every day.

That is true blessing, namely to have enough strength every day to pursue the path of faith and life, to have enough strength every day to do the will of God, to have enough strength every day in order to overcome evil with goodness, to have enough strength every day to gain a victory with Christ, and to rejoice every day over the fact that our Saviour provides for us, each and every day anew!

* Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle

— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

May 2016: The fear of God and trust

The year 2016 has been captioned by the motto of “Victory with Christ”. This also applies in daily life—perhaps first and foremost. Such a statement incorporates many facets. I would just like to pick out one point of emphasis: the fear of God and trust are part of our victory with Christ. The fear of God is the respect and reverence we owe God, our Creator and heavenly Father. Let us trust Him all our lives, even in bad days.

Here are some examples from Holy Scripture to illustrate:

  • With the help of his fear of the Lord, Joseph was able to overcome sin. As a devout individual, he was aware that God was with him and could see his actions. He withstood the temptation, refused to get involved with a woman who was not his wife, and even remained faithful to God while he was in prison, forgotten by all. But ultimately, the moment came when God liberated him.

Today we too know that God sees and knows all things. Let us therefore avoid sin and trust in Him. He will not forget us!

  • Moses was a man filled with trust in the actions of God. He engaged in a battle against Pharaoh, which at first seemed quite hopeless. Nevertheless, Moses did not give up his trust in God, even though the Egyptian ruler refused nine times to let the people of Israel depart. But ultimately, Moses did give the people the order to prepare for their departure from Egypt—they all obeyed him, and God liberated them.

And today? How often have we already experienced the power of God! Despite all the hostilities of the evil one, let us trust God and obey Him. Soon we will have escaped the evil one for good.

  • Paul had to change himself completely. Everything that had previously appeared holy had suddenly been called into question and become unimportant. Nevertheless, he believed and trusted the Lord, and soon continued his path as an instrument in the hand of God, leading the church of the Lord toward redemption. The Son of God Himself sent him out into the world as an Apostle and preacher of the gospel.

So it also happens with us today. God sends us out into the world so that we may hold fast—and loudly tell others about—the glad tidings of the resurrection of Jesus, His ascension, and His return! Christ will come—that is what we have been promised!

Let us always obey God out of reverence in all situations of life, all through our lives. We know that He sees and knows all things. We can trust in His power. Then we too will experience the victory with Christ!

* Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider

— We would love to hear from you on any of these topics. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

April 2016: Do it with God!

Reconciliation—a word that slides so easily from our lips but is so difficult to practise in daily life. Most often, the path to reconciliation is a long one that requires something from all parties involved. On the part of the culprit, there must be remorse for his wrongdoing as well as the willingness to ask for forgiveness, and on the part of the victim there must be a willingness to accept the apology and forgive. Often, however, both conflicting parties bear some of the guilt, which does not make reconciliation any easier: who will take the first step? Who will be the first to overcome his pride and humble himself before the other? Who will take the risk, in some circumstances, of looking like a “weakling”?

The example of Jacob and Esau shows how reconciliation can succeed. At some point in time, Jacob decided he could no longer live in the condition of having to regard his brother as an enemy. He wanted reconciliation. How did he proceed? First he sought the help of God and turned to the Lord in prayer: “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother.” Then he sent a portion of his possessions to Esau as a gift and as a sign of his desire to make amends. Esau at first refused his brother’s conciliatory gesture, saying, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” But when he recognized how serious Jacob was about reconciliation, he accepted Jacob’s gifts, and the two of them made peace.

Let us go about this with God—then reconciliation will become possible. Then we will succeed in humbling ourselves if we are in the role of Jacob. And if we are in the role of Esau, we will be able to overcome ourselves and accept the apology.

* Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle

 

March 2016: Protected from the evil one

Human beings are exposed to many influences, especially those from their surroundings. The world into which they are born, in which they grow up and make their experiences, defines their nature and personality—whether for good or ill. No matter how much of an effort one may make, it is not always possible to avoid negative influences.

The evil that still prevails in this world, which still holds power over mankind, cannot simply be turned off or neutralized—it brings its influence to bear. However, we have not simply been abandoned to it without protection. In His intercessory prayer, Jesus asked His Father: “Keep them from the evil one!” This means that, while we may still live in the domain of the evil one, evil cannot become a danger to us. It only has a limited influence upon us, because the power which Christ gives the believers in His word and in the sacraments helps them to resist the evil one. With this power, we are in a position to say no to the evil one. And with this power we are even equipped to counter evil with goodness and overcome it with goodness.

And the promise still applies: “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3: 3). Since this is the case, evil no longer has any influence on our relationship with God. And it is to have less and less of an influence on our relationship with our neighbour as well.

* Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle

February 2016: Doing what is good

A well-known author once coined the phrase, “There is nothing good unless you do it.” Nicely put. Anyone would immediately agree with that statement. But the question remains: what is good? Just because I do something I think is good does not necessarily make it good! Experience teaches us this time and again: there are times when we act with the best of aims and intentions, and yet the end result of our actions turns out to be rather questionable.

So what is goodness then? Or to put it another way, where does all goodness have its source? With God!

Only God is good. Jesus already made this clear to the rich young man. And in response to the question, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus answered him by saying, “Sell what you have […] and come, follow Me!” (cf. Matthew 19: 16-21).

Goodness is doing that which I see Jesus do. It is living the way Jesus Christ shows me to live. That is always good. After all, following means nothing other than being focused on Jesus Christ and being clear that it is in Him that everything good, everything perfect, everything that is best for you and me, has its source.

Look up to Him and do what He tells you. Then you will be doing what is good, and then you will also have what is good.

* Food for thought from a divine service by the Chief Apostle